Emperor and Empress of Japan honor WWII veterans at Punchbowl cemetery

Gene Castagnetti
Gene Castagnetti
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

PUNCHBOWL (KHNL) - It's a visit like no other for those who rest at the National Cemetery of the Pacific.

"Because they're not elected officials. They are royalty. They represent a monarchy with a heredity that is the oldest monarchy in the world. And that makes it special," said Gene Castagnetti, National Cemetery Director.

It has been 15 years since Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited the national shrine. As they laid a ceremonial wreath to honor those who sacrificed their lives in World War II on Wednesday morning, Mother Nature suddenly took its cue.

"You know the rain is the imua, it's a blessing in Hawaii," said Castagnetti.

"Very special with the umbrellas, raining, and it just added on the meaning of the ceremony," said Nina Nguyen, who had the honor of escorting the Empress.

"She's beautiful, she's very approachable. She stepped back and hit my shoe and said, 'I am sorry' - very sweet, very nice," said Nguyen.

In the air, a U.S. plane and one representing Japan flew over, symbolizing the diplomatic bridge Their Majesties hope to preserve between the two nations, with their intentions made known as they etched their signatures in the official guestbook of the final resting place where history has brought Japan and the U-S together.

"The experience is great. I will remember it for the rest of my life," said Nguyen.